Friday, October 31, 2014

Review: The Daughter of Highland Hall


The Daughter of Highland Hall
By Carrie Turansky
Edwardian Brides #2
Multnomah Books, 2014


Summary

What if the title, the estate, the life of security and splendor . . . what if it isn't enough?

Strong-willed and beautiful, debutante Katherine Ramsey feels ready to take the London social season by storm, and she must. Her family estate, Highland Hall, has been passed to older male cousin Sir William Ramsey, and her only means of securing her future is to make a strong debut and find a proper husband. With her all-knowing and meddling aunt as a guide, Katherine is certain to attract suitors at the lavish gatherings, sparkling with Great Britain's elite.

When a shocking family scandal sidelines Katherine, forcing her out of the social spotlight, she keeps a low profile, volunteering with the poor in London's East End. Here Katherine feels free from her predictable future, and even more so as a friendship with medical student Jonathan Foster deepens and her faith in God grows. But when Katherine is courted anew by a man of wealth and position, dreams of the life she always thought she wanted surface again. Torn between tradition and the stirrings in her heart for a different path, she must decide whom she can trust and love---and if she will choose a life serving others over one where she is served.


 My thoughts

The Daughter of Highland Hall is set in Edwardian England, 1912, and opens with Katherine trying to perfect the art of curtsying in preparation for her "coming out" and presentation to the king and queen. Historical details - descriptions of balls and other social events, clothing, locale, and travel - were just the right amount to help visualize the era. (Visit Carrie's The Daughter of Highland Hall Pinterest board to really get a feel for this time and place.) Characters are well drawn, and while this isn't an action-packed story, it's a good, steady narrative with which to relax and enjoy a sweet romance.

I have not read the first story, The Governess of Highland Hall, but was able to pick up on previous plot lines and easily connect with the characters. Series readers will enjoy reconnecting with William and Julia, as well as seeing the emotional and spiritual maturing of Katherine.

All the elements that make up British society are present here - social structure and the importance of marrying within one's own class; the fact that family connections are everything and any hint of scandal must be avoided at all cost. London's East End depicts the great chasm between the rich and the poor. I loved how Sir William's family was often known for ignoring the rules of society at the risk of their social acceptance.

Characterization revolves around William and Julia's family, including servants, and these likeable characters that I want to spend more time with are one strength of this story. There's also humor and multi-layered plots, which I always enjoy.

Jonathan, Julia's brother and medical student, is easy to connect with and I loved seeing him interact with the East End residents. Katherine is pushed toward available males with the impeccable backgrounds by her ambitious aunt, and I enjoyed seeing her journey toward maturity.

The spiritual element is another strength of this story. Spiritual themes are woven throughout this story - such as having a personal relationship with Christ, being unequally yoked, God's call to service on our lives, and a clear presentation of gospel message.

Although the narrative seemed a little slow at times, I grew so attached to the characters that I enjoyed The Daughter of Highland Hall overall and want to read the other books in this series. Book #3, A Refuge at Highland Hall, comes out in October 2015. Recommended to fans of inspirational historical romance.



Carrie Turansky

Carrie Turansky is an award-winning author of more than a dozen novels and novellas. She has written contemporary and historical romances, women's fiction, short stories, articles, and devotionals. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, Scott, and they have five adult children and four grandchildren.

Find Carrie online at carrieturansky.com, FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. To learn more, visit the Litfuse blog tour page.

Expectant Parents – New Resource from Focus on the Family {And, iPad Mini Giveaway!}

While many books for new parents focus on prenatal development and the health of a mom-to-be, Suzanne Hadley Gosselin's Expectant Parents' core purpose is to help new parents understand key issues related to the arrival of a new child in the home, offering practical assistance as they prepare themselves for long-term family success.


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Learn ways to strengthen your marriage relationship, set plans and expectations for parenthood, increase communication, and prepare for the new stage of your family life. Pick up a copy for yourself or for expectant friends and enter for a chance to win an iPad Mini!

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • An iPad Mini
  • Expectant Parents from Suzanne Hadley Gosselin and Focus on the Family
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 2nd. Winner will be announced November 3rd on Suzanne's website here.


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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Guest Blogger Review: An Aria for Nick


I would like to occasionally share book reviews from some of my outstanding blogger friends - and the first is the delightful Sarah Baker. Sarah regularly blogs at God, Books, & Chocolate (learn more about Sarah at the end of this post). I don't read a lot of suspense and her review of An Aria for Nick intrigued me, so please enjoy Sarah's thoughts below . . .


An Aria for Nick
By Hallee Bridgeman
Song of Suspense, #2
Olivia Kimbrell Press, 2013


Summary

        Raised in a loving home, Aria Suarez dreamed of becoming a professional pianist happily married to her high school crush. After the only boy who ever caught her eye dies a hero's death and her wrist is shattered along with her future plans, she turns her brilliant musical mind to nuclear engineering and solving mysteries of science.
        Abandoned to an abusive father at five, Nick Williams grew up dreaming of escape; of enlisting in the Army and leaving his wretched life behind; of proving himself worthy of the girl he loves. But the crucible of combat offers only the escape of death.
        A decade later, Aria uncovers a nuclear plot that threatens the heart of our very nation. Sinister forces surround and threaten her when, out of nowhere, the man who reportedly died so many years before returns as if from the grave - intent on protecting her. Has God finally joined them together? Or is Aria doomed to mourn Nick twice?


Hallee Bridgeman
        Hallee Bridgeman lives with her husband and their three children in small town Kentucky. When not writing Christian romantic suspense novels or penning cookbooks, she blogs about all things cooking and homemaking at her Hallee the Homemaker blog.
        Hallee loves coffee, campy action movies, and regular date nights with her husband. Above all else, she loves God with all of her heart, soul, mind, and strength; has been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ; and relies on the presence of the Holy Spirit.
        (Description [italics mine] and book cover from Christian Book. About the author copied from book. No infringement intended.)



Sarah's Review: 4.5 stars

A new favorite! An Aria for Nick is the second book in Hallee Bridgeman’s Song of Suspense series. I’m a big fan of Ms. Bridgeman’s books and loved this one as well!

While this is book two, technically, you don’t have to read them in order. The plots don’t overlap or anything. Several of the characters come back in this one (or are at least mentioned) and you might miss an inside joke or two, but that’s about it. I do highly recommend reading all of Hallee’s books, if you get the chance, but this one easily stands on its own.

Hallee has this wonderful talent for creating unlikely characters and making them incredibly real. For instance, Aria Suarez is a concert pianist-turned nuclear engineer. I would never have even come up with that combination, but I loved Aria and everything that made her who she is. She is obviously extremely smart, but is still very down-to-Earth. She is kind and caring, but also determined and stubborn. She has built a new life for herself after losing Nick and has moved on, somewhat, though she has never forgotten him. I loved her reaction when she first meets him again - it was very realistic, though I personally, I probably would have slapped him for what he did to Aria.

Nicholas “Nick” Williams “died” 12 years before, leaving everything to the young woman he loved. Honestly, I hated him a little for that, at first. After getting to know him and learning why he made that decision, I forgave him. It’s also really hard to hate someone as sweet and kind as Nick, even though he often hides those qualities. He is one of those macho, somewhat silent types. Though I don’t blame him for not wanting to talk about his past. The glimpses we get of it explain a lot and made me mourn for him a little bit; all he had lost and the regret he lived with.

I actually really enjoyed Aria and Nick’s relationship. It surprised me, but in a good way. I was a little concerned that it was going to be the same thing over and over, with Aria constantly nagging him about lying to her. I should have known better, this is Hallee Bridgeman we‘re talking about, after all. I loved watching their relationship grow through out the book, from the teenage feelings in high school, to the people they are now. Seeing them reconnect and get to know each other anew was great. I also enjoyed their banter and how they challenge one another. Aria pushed Nick, forcing him out of his comfort zone. He returned the favor by challenging her to face her fears head on and do the hard things required of her. I loved getting to know both of them through the other’s eyes.

The suspense and mystery were great as well! A couple things were a little obvious, but there were also some surprises along the way that kept me guessing. This book wasn’t extremely suspenseful, but it had its moments. A lot of it was Aria and Nick investigating and putting the pieces together, but I that actually made me respect Hallee more, as an author. She has a great talent for making the story fascinating and for drawing readers in, without having to have nonstop action to keep you hooked.

The spiritual content wasn’t in the forefront as much as in some of her previous books, but I can understand why. Aria and Nick are both already Christians, so that saved a lot of discussion and it probably would have seemed unrealistic if they had had a lot of talks about it, while on the run. What was there was skillfully woven in so that there was just enough, but not overpowering anything else. The same is true of the descriptions and details. They enhanced an already wonderful story, but in no way overwhelmed it.

I only have two complaints and they are mostly little nitpicky things. The beginning seemed a little slow to me, though looking back, I can understand why Hallee spent that time on it. It helped later on, to have the background. Also, there were a couple times where the point of view seemed to shift for just a sentence or two to a secondary character that Nick was talking with. It confused me for a moment, but I was able to move past it quickly, so it didn’t bother me much.

I highly recommend this book if you enjoy excellent writing with fascinating characters, and mystery/suspense.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author through The Book Club Network for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.

____________________


Sarah Baker
Sarah writes:  "The most important thing to know about me is that I am a Christian.  I don’t take that title lightly and do my best to emulate Christ, though I know I often fall short.  I am also a book addict and a word enthusiast.  I am a writer by design, but not by trade (yet) and I have a weakness for anything cute and fluffy."

Be sure to visit Sarah's blog, God, Books, & Chocolate.


Author Spotlight + 2-book GIVEAWAY: Amy Clipston


Come and meet Amy Clipston, popular writer of both Amish fiction and young adult inspirationals.

I've only recently discovered Amy Clipston's writing and she has quickly became a favorite of mine, both as a writer and as my sister in Christ. In comparison to similar books, A Mother's Secret dealt with some difficult social issues and made me pause for reflection, while entertaining and inspiring at the same time (see my review here). Quite an accomplishment, Miss Amy!

So it is with much delight that I welcome Amy Clipston to The Power of Words. Many of you are probably familiar with Amy's writing already, but maybe you will learn something new about her through this interview. And a special surprise is that Amy is giving away a copy not only of A Mother's Secret, but her new book, A Dream of Home as well! Entry details are at the end of this interview.

Now enjoy Amy . . .


Q:  Please share briefly about yourself, Amy. Married with kids? Full-time or part-time writer?

I live in North Carolina with my husband, Joe; two sons, Zac and Matt; mother, Lola; and four spoiled-rotten cats, Molly, Lily, Rico, and Jet. I work full-time for the City of Charlotte, and since I write four books per year, I also write full-time.  I work four 10-hour days for the City in order to have Fridays off for writing, running errands, and volunteering at my boys’ school. I’m also blessed to have my mother living with my family. She handles most of the housework, including food shopping, cleaning, and doing laundry. Thanks to her help, I’m able to spend any free time at home writing. My schedule is not ideal schedule, but I make it work. My family is very supportive and thankful for my book contracts.


Q:  I know that organ and blood donation is something you are passionate about, Amy. Please share a little about this.

        Some readers may not know that my husband, Joe, has endured two kidney transplants. Joe received a kidney from his brother in 2004, and it only lasted four years.  In 2008, he went back on dialysis, and he was very ill. I was willing to donate to Joe, but I wasn’t a perfect match. Instead of donating a kidney to Joe, I found another way to help him.
        I donated a kidney on June 14, 2011, at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Through my donation, my husband, Joe, received a second kidney transplant. My husband and I matched another couple and swapped kidneys with them. I donated a kidney to a woman, and in exchange, her husband gave a kidney to Joe. My memoir, A Gift of Love, details our journey with Joe’s kidney disease and his two kidney transplants.   You can find my memoir here.
        Due to Joe’s kidney struggles, I’ve become an advocate for both organ and blood donation. I volunteer with the National Kidney Foundation, and I also run blood drives both at my work and at my church. If you are healthy and able, please give the gift of life and donate blood.


Q:  You've posted some delicious looking Amish recipes on your website. Do you incorporate these into your novels and do you have a favorite?

My first Amish series, the Kauffman Amish Bakery series, featured several recipes in each of the five books.  Crumbly Peach Pie was the favorite of Timothy Kauffman, who was featured in my book A Place of Peace. Timothy is one of my favorite characters, so I thought I’d include that recipe here:

Crumbly Peach Pie

9-inch pie shell, unbaked
1 cup sugar
¼ cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 stick butter
8 large peach halves
¼ cup water

Mix together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg, then mix in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle half of the mixture in the bottom of the pie shell. Arrange peach halves cut side down over crumbs.  Cover with remaining crumbs. Add the water after and bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees, then for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.



Q:  Tell us a little about the Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series and how the book we're featuring today, A Mother's Secret, fits in.

        The Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series features women who work at the fictional Lancaster Grand Hotel.  The series was inspired by the Berlin Grand Hotel in Berlin, Ohio, which I visited in 2011 while I was on a book tour with two other Amish fiction authors, Shelley Shepard Gray and Vannetta Chapman.
        A Mother's Secret is the second in my Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series. In this book, Carolyn Lapp dreams of marrying for love. But will the errors of her past destroy this dream forever?
        Carolyn Lapp longs to have a traditional Amish family. But she lives on her brother's farm with her parents and her 15-year-old son, Benjamin. Carolyn has never revealed the identity of Benjamin's father and lives daily with the guilt and shame of her youthful indiscretion. Her brother simply will not forgive her. His answer is to arrange a practical marriage for Carolyn to Saul, a widower with a little girl. But Carolyn isn't convinced that Saul really loves her and believes he is simply looking for someone to help raise his daughter.
        When Benjamin causes trouble at a local horse auction, horse breeder Joshua Glick decides that he must be taught a lesson. Carolyn and Joshua are unmistakably drawn to each other, but Joshua mistakenly assumes that Benjamin is Carolyn's nephew. Carolyn fears that if he discovers the truth, her past will destroy their budding romance. After years of shame and loneliness, Carolyn suddenly has two men vying for her attention. But which of them will give her the family - and the unconditional love - she's longed for?

        I think readers will enjoy seeing Joshua Glick in this book since he was a minor character in book 1, A Hopeful Heart. Readers will also have the opportunity to find out what happened to Hannah, the main character in the first book.
        Book #3, A Dream of Home, will release on November 4. In this book, readers see more of Saul Beiler and they will also get to know Madeleine, who served in the military before coming to Amish Country. Madeleine, like Carolyn, has an interesting past, and I think readers will enjoy her story.


Q:  Pretend I’m a customer browsing through the Amish section at a local bookstore. What would you say to convince me to select a book from this series?

I would tell you that the books in my Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series appeal to readers because they feature characters who are struggling with some of the same issues you and I are tackling. My books also touch on some deep issues, and the characters struggle with relatable problems.


Q:  Carolyn Lapp's story is a good reminder that the Amish deal with the same life struggles that we face. What will draw readers to Carolyn?

I think Carolyn appeals to readers because she’s not perfect. Carolyn has made mistakes in the past, but she strives to be a good mother to her son. We all have made mistakes, and we struggle with the consequences.


Q:  In comparison to some other Amish fiction that I've read, A Mother's Secret includes some weighty spiritual issues. Is there a theme that particularly speaks to you, Amy?

The theme that always speaks to me is forgiveness.  I believe we all struggle with both forgiving others and also forgiving ourselves.  Carolyn and Joshua encounter this issue throughout A Mother’s Secret, and I think readers will be able to relate to it as well.


Q:  What do you hope readers will take away from A Mother's Secret?

I readers will not only enjoy Carolyn’s story but also be touched by the themes of forgiveness and second chances.



Q:  What stories can readers expect from you in the days ahead?

As I mentioned above, book #3 in the series, A Dream of Home, will release November 3. The book features Saul Beiler, who was a minor character in A Mother’s Secret, and readers will also find out more about Madeleine Miller, who works at the Lancaster Grand hotel with Carolyn, Ruth, and Linda. Here is the book’s blurb:

        Moving to Pennsylvania wasn't in Madeleine's original plans. She should still be in California and should have married her pilot fiancĂ© a year ago-but death has a way of changing everything. Now the former Air Force flight nurse is living alone in Paradise, Pennsylvania, and working as a maid at the Lancaster Grand Hotel. She isn't exactly a widow . . . but she sure feels like one.
        Saul Beiler isn't exactly a widower . . . but his wife is long gone. His eleven-year-old daughter, Emma, doesn't know that her mother fled the Amish community-and married another man-but she does know that her dat is lonely, and that a pretty young maedel just moved in next door. Madeline's numb heart begins to thaw as she spends more time with the innocent and ever optimistic Emma. The stronger her friendship grows with the young girl, the more intrigued Madeline grows about the humble, strong, man raising her on his own.
        But even as a strange attraction pulls Saul and Madeleine across a stark cultural divide, they-and everybody else-have to wonder: What could they possibly have in common besides heartache? Will love allow Madeleine to finally find the home she's been dreaming of all along?


Q:  How can we support and/or pray for you, Amy?

The last book in my series, A Simple Prayer, will debut in June 2015.  I’m excited to announce that I’ve finished edits for that book, and I’m working on the first book in my next Amish series. I’m thankful that I’m able to create another series based in Pennsylvania and I hope to share more information soon.

Thank you for featuring me on your blog!
Blessings,
Amy

____________________

GIVEAWAY

To enter the drawing for A Mother's Secret and A Dream of Home, simply answer the question below and also leave a comment for Amy if you'd like. PLEASE REMEMBER TO LEAVE YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS in a safe format - [at] and [dot]. If you're willing, it's also helpful to share about this giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter.


Question:
Do you like having recipes, such as the one Amy shared, included
in books? If so, have you ever tried any?

Please "like" my Facebook page, ThePowerofWordsBookReviews, if you haven't already. And new followers of this blog are always welcome!


  • E-mail required, one entry per person. Odds of winning are based on number of entries.
  • Contest ends at midnight PST on Friday, November 7. Winner will be chosen by Random.org and contacted by e-mail. Respond within 48 hours of notification or another winner will be chosen.
  • Eligibility: US residents, 18 and older

New Regency from @SarahLaddAuthor AND a Kindle HDX giveaway!

Award-winning author Sarah E. Ladd examines how to escape the clutches of a tainted past in the final installment of her Whispers on the Moor series. A Regency-era novel, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall cleverly shows that even though our pasts may be shameful or painful, God can take the darkest personal histories and turn them into the brightest futures.

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Celebrate with Sarah by entering her Kindle HDX giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 2nd. Winner will be announced November 3rd here.


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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Review: A Promise to Protect


A Promise to Protect
By Patricia Bradley
Logan Point Series, #2
Revell, 2014


Summary

In a steamy small town riddled with broken promises, one woman's secret could change everything.

Acting Sheriff Ben Logan hasn't heard from Leigh Somerall in a very long time, but it doesn't mean he can get her--or their whirlwind romance of ten years ago--out of his head. When she calls out of the blue, it is with a strange request to protect her brother, Tony. But all too soon, Ben is charged with a different task--protecting Leigh from the people after her brother. With Leigh doing everything in her power to avoid Ben, it's no easy task. And the secret she is keeping just may change their lives forever.


My thoughts

Although suspense is not my favorite genre, Patricia Bradley is making me more of a fan with each book she writes. A Promise to Protect is set in the rural southern community of Logan Point, Mississippi, with some scenes taking place in nearby Memphis, Tennessee. From a suspense standpoint, the story is packed with so many interesting elements - murder, attempted murder, dogfighting, shipment of guns to Mexico. But one of the strengths of Patricia's writing is character depth, which is one reason I enjoy her novels so much. There's plenty of tension - both relational and romantic.

Southern fiction is something I've always found appealing, and Patricia beautifully conveys that southern feel in such a way that readers can visualize the Logan Point area and its people. I loved the description of southern ladies as "women who wove gentleness and grit together, forming a steel core that endured anything."

Although #2 in the Logan Point series, A Promise to Protect easily stands alone. Those familiar with the first book will be glad to see Acting Sheriff Ben Logan get his own story, and also enjoy seeing Taylor Martin return to assist through her profiler skills. Secondary characters add much interest and I was especially drawn to Ben's deputy, Wade. I certainly hope he will be featured in his own story soon.

Tony Jackson shouldn't be dying in a ritzy hotel room in downtown Memphis on a hot July night. He shouldn't be dying at all. With Ben's thoughts in the very first paragraph, Tony's sister, Leigh, is reluctantly pulled back to the Logan Point community and into Ben's life. Leigh and Ben are sympathetic characters, both carrying guilt from the past, and Leigh's son, TJ, will steal readers' hearts. Ben's dad hasn't regained his speech after being shot, and TJ's interaction with him is one of my favorite parts.

____________________

"Forgiveness was a choice. But so was receiving it."
- Ben Logan
____________________

Letting go of the past and forgiveness - both the giving and receiving of it - are major themes. Ben and Leigh had drifted away from the Lord over the years and their steady spiritual journey is believable and enjoyable to follow.

I greatly enjoyed A Promise to Protect and recommend this book, as well as the whole series. Click on the title to see my review of the first book in the Logan Point series, Shadows of the Past.

A Promise to Protect can be purchased online at CBD, DeeperShopping, B&N, and Amazon.


Patricia Bradley

Patricia Bradley is the winner of a 2012 Daphne du Maurier Award and a 2012 Touched by Love Award and was also a finalist for the 2012 Genesis Award. The author of Shadows of the Past, she is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. Bradley makes her home in Mississippi.

Meet Patricia online at ptbradley.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.